MONROE — The process of rolling out COVID-19 vaccines is still in its early forms, and the general public will have to wait “several months” to be vaccinated, according to the Green County Public Health Department.
In a press release issued Jan. 8, the county health department said that the supply of the vaccines is limited, but as production increases, more vaccines will be available to more people.
“The vaccine is being distributed in a phased approach, and we are currently in Phase 1-A,” the press release said. Individuals who are eligible to get vaccinated in this phase include healthcare workers and people in long term care facilities. We anticipate that Phase 1 may take several months to complete.”
The state of Wisconsin, which includes Green County, is under Phase 1-A of the rollout plan. Phase 1 has three groups — A, B, and C — and Phase 2 is for the general public. Bridget Craker, Green County Public Health Educator, clarified that “several months” referred to getting through Phase 1-C, not just 1-A.
So far, Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been given emergency use authorization to be used throughout the U.S., beginning Dec. 12, 2020 with Pfizer-BioNTech and then Moderna Dec. 18.
Phase 1-A is the tier of most urgent need to receive one of the available vaccines. The tier includes residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the health workers in those facilities, plus others — like hospice workers, dentists, chiropractors, and pharmacists. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced in a press release Jan. 11 that police and fire personnel will be eligible to begin receiving the vaccine Jan. 18.
“Wisconsin has been vaccinating the 1A population since December 14, 2020 which includes frontline health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities including nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” the DHS release stated. “There are 1098 entities fully registered and ready to provide COVID-19 vaccines in Wisconsin. Local Health Departments (LHD) will be leading the coordination for the vaccination of Police and Fire personnel, as well as EMS and unaffiliated health care providers in their jurisdictions. Local Health Departments will work in partnership with local vaccinators, including health care systems and pharmacies. To ensure vaccine access statewide, DHS will also work alongside LHDs in coordinating with police and fire associations.”
Wisconsin received 56,900 doses to vaccinate nursing home residents and staff on Dec. 28, 2020, and that population is expected to complete vaccination by the end of January, with another 50,000 doses reserved for assisted living facilities beginning Jan. 25. According to the DHS, Wisconsin will need more than 140,000 doses for the assisted living population, which includes staff at each facility.
As Phase 1-A winds down, Phase 1-B will be available for those eligible, which will include non-healthcare frontline essential workers and persons 75-years-old and older. Phase 1-C will consist of those 65-74, persons aged 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers not included in Phase 1B. According to Craker, getting through Phase 1-C is what could take several months. She also said the categories for essential workers are “pretty broad,” but that specifications for what constitutes an essential worker should be coming in the near future.
According to the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Data website, the “The federal government allocates COVID-19 vaccine to Wisconsin based on population size. Once the vaccine is allocated, Wisconsin places an order with the federal government so they know exactly where to send the vaccine.”
Craker said she and the county health department are excited that local interest in getting the vaccine is high, but urged residents to be patient, as the logistics from a national, state and county level to roll out the vaccine is complex with many moving parts.
“We’ll be updating our website and releasing new information as it comes available,” Craker said about the vaccine rollout.
Also on Jan. 11, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and the DHS called on the federal government to distribute more of the vaccine to the state’s weekly allocations. In three weeks, the state built up nearly 1,100 vaccine provider locations in order to finish Phase 1A and move on to the next tier.
“Our vaccine team is working across the state on vaccine distribution, and so many Wisconsinites are ready to get vaccinated and get back to our Wisconsin way of life,” said Gov. Evers said in a statement. “In a state where our statewide mitigation strategies have been struck down and challenged time and time again, it is absolutely critical that Wisconsin get additional doses of vaccine to meet demand and box in the virus.”
Wisconsin’s allocations have varied each week, but this week marks the first time the state’s demand will exceed supply — needing more than 10,000 vaccines to fill the void. According to the DHS, there are more than 550,000 Wisconsinites that qualify for Phase 1A, and more than a million in phases 1B and 1C.
Wisconsin’s State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) will propose populations for Phase 1B and released for public comment Jan. 13, Evers’ press release state.
For those unsure of where they might appear on the phased rollout, the county’s website (gcpublichealth.org) has a survey to fill out. “As more information is available about the vaccines, the signup process will be different,” Craker said.
As of Jan. 11, there were 94 active cases of COVID-19 in Green County, with five people hospitalized and 10 deaths. There have been 2,355 recovered cases.